I’ve been traveling through cities a good bit lately, mostly because I’m working and that means travel and meetings in cities. Walking the streets of DC Friday morning I got asked for spare change by a man sitting on a stoop shaking a paper coffee cup.
I didn’t stop and give him anything, but I did remember my two trips through Boston’s South Station in the last two weeks. The first time I was sitting on a bench outside, eating lunch and enjoying the sunshine and city energy. A young woman approached me and said, “I’m not a scumbag, really. Really, I’m not. But I’m stuck and need $7 for a ticket home to Vermont. I never do this but if you could just help me out I’ll pay you back, I promise.” I gave her $20 and she hurried off towards the bus terminal.
Sunday night I was sitting inside the bus station waiting for the last bus to Concord when a young man came up to me. “Excuse me,” he said. “My mother would kill me if she knew I was doing this, but I lost my wallet on my last bus trip, and now I don’t have the $15 I need for a ticket back to New York City. Could you help me out?”
“Why are you asking me?” I said. “Because I was here a week ago and got basically the exact same story. Why me?” The young man shrugged and said, “You’re sitting near the ticket counter. I just thought I’d ask you.” I told him to ask some other people and come back to me if he didn’t have any luck.
In Manhattan two weeks ago, waiting on the sidewalk for the BoltBus, people kept coming up to me to ask, “Is this the line for the bus to Boston?” There’s no sign, people just line up near the TicToc Diner on the corner of the block with the New Yorker hotel. I’d asked if it was the right spot myself, and trusting the people who’d told me it was, I reassured person after person who asked that this was the place to wait (it was). After the fourth or fifth person who came up to a long line of people and picked out me to ask, the young man standing behind me said, “People like to ask you, don’t they?” I nodded. “I guess so, must be something about my face.”
The young man at the South Station bus station came back about 15 minutes later. “No luck,” he said and I gave him $20. “Let me pay you back,” he said, taking out his phone. “Give me your email and I swear, I’ll be in touch. Really, I never do this.”
I just shook my head. “No, it’s fine,” I said. “Have a good trip home.”